Frances Warboys from Defend Enfield NHS invites residents to get involved with the group’s latest campaign work
Most people need our treasured National Health Service at some point in their lives. Without it, many of us would not even be here.
In 2016, when the opportunity arose for Enfield residents to join together as an NHS support group, we didn’t hesitate. The main criterion was that we should love the NHS. Defend Enfield NHS (DENHS) was thus born as a small non party-political organisation, led by retired medical professionals and representing a variety of occupations including teaching, finance, the civil service and local government.
We are affiliated to the national groups Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) and Health Campaigns Together (HCT), with the shared aim of supporting and retaining a health service which is publicly-owned, publicly-funded, publicly-accountable and free at the point of need. Never before in the history of the NHS has that support been more crucial.
We attended public meetings of local health organisations, including those of the Enfield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body, in order to learn about and share more widely the issues of the day. Sadly, the reorganisation of the NHS in North London, merging borough CCGs into the new North Central London CCG, has limited our ability to scrutinise services in Enfield. The added inability to attend meetings during lockdown meant Enfield patients and the public were denied the chance to hold NHS bosses to account.
A recent example is that of the government’s proposed ‘data grab’ of patients’ confidential medical records, with the potential for these to be sold for profit. The proposal was subsequently shelved.
Over time, DENHS members have variously joined NHS marches in London and shown appreciation to frontline staff on NHS birthday anniversaries by providing cards and snacks to those coming off night shifts, and others arriving for work.
In the past two years there have been vast numbers of Covid-related deaths; more than 150,000 nationally, and at least 870 locally in Enfield borough. Many were care home residents put at risk by the decision to discharge untested hospital patients. This appalling loss of life led to widespread demands for a judicial public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Those demands were originally rejected by the prime minister, although an inquiry is now due to start later this year. In the meantime, KONP commissioned its ‘People’s Covid Inquiry’ headed by the much-respected human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC. The subsequent report, Misconduct in Public Office, was published in December 2021. It sets out the findings and recommendations designed to improve practice for the future, using tried-and-tested NHS and public health resources, rather than private companies with no experience.
The report makes for horrific but essential reading, exposing the late lockdowns; lack of effective personal protective equipment (PPE); the colossal waste of public money in outsourcing the task of test and trace to private companies; and the need for the NHS to become the default provider in any future health crisis. The only redeeming feature in this miserable litany of events was the speedy roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines, but this was organised by the NHS with help from the military and thousands of volunteers, rather than by the government directly.
Stealthy privatisation of the NHS and GP services has long been a concern and the present lack of transparency has made matters much worse. The Health and Care Bill currently before parliament will exacerbate this by handing out even more valuable NHS contracts to unscrupulous private organisations.
A national day of action on 26th February saw 43 organisations, under the banner of HCT, demand the government approve emergency funding of £20billion; invest in a fully publicly-owned NHS to guarantee free healthcare for future generations; and pay NHS staff properly. If you’d like to get involved with our future campaigning work, please get in touch.
Read the report from the People’s Covid Inquiry: